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Friday, 18 November 2011

Anglicans and Lutherans in Northern Europe meet to discuss the doctrine of marriage

The Bishop of Newcastle, Co-Chairman of the Consultation
From 1 to 4 November, the Churches of the Porvoo Communion held a consultation in Turku, Finland on the Churches’ teaching on marriage. Delegates represented the Anglican Churches in England, Ireland and Scotland, and the Lutheran Churches in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Observers were present from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, the Lutheran Church in Great Britain, and the Latvian Lutheran Church Abroad.

The consultation was felt to be timely, given that in our countries legislation on marriage is changing, and these changes are drawing responses from our Churches. For instance, Sweden passed a gender neutral marriage law in 2009. The Church of Sweden subsequently revised its liturgy of marriage accordingly.

I was invited to the consultation as a “keynote listener” - a kind of rapporteur - to feed back to the consultation what the participants were saying to each other. It was 4 days of honest exchange and dialogue. The Churches affirmed that their central and shared task is to witness together for Christ in a complex and changing Europe. The representatives recognised that throughout its history the Christian Church has had to face the challenges of a changing society. The consultation affirmed that the Church is in but not wholly of the world as she seeks to live and proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ afresh in each generation.

During the days together members from each Church shared their official teaching on marriage, as well as their pastoral experiences. There were also presentations covering aspects of the scriptural foundations for marriage, the development of doctrine, and human genetics.

The consultation concluded that differences over the introduction of same-sex marriage remain unresolved. The Churches hold a variety of views and pastoral practices along a theological spectrum. Some believe same sex marriage to be a legitimate development in the Christian tradition, whilst others see the potential for a serious departure from the received tradition. Nevertheless the consultation affirmed the benefits of "belonging to one another" and the value of honest encounter. The strong relationship of the Porvoo Communion, provides a “platform of sustained communication in the face of issues which raise difficulties for [the Churches]”

A communiqué from the consultation can be found here. A full report is to be made available later in 2012. 

The closing eucharist was celebrated in the 15th century parish church of St Mary, near the conference centre. 

St Mary's Church


  1. Hello Fr. Hamid,

    i just stumbled across your blog. I was raised in a conservative Lutheran denomination but have a deep appreciation for classical Anglicanism. The scriptures seem to be quite clear on this topic. I really do not think we can get anything else out of them. It seems pretty clear that sexually activity is to be had within the sacramental bond of marriage and marriage is between a man and a woman. Why so much confusion?

    1. It is precisely because of different approaches by the Churches who have signed the Porvoo Agreement that the consultation was held. There has not been, before that consultation, a time when the Churches in involved shared their own official doctrine of marriage, so that alone was a vitally important thing to have done. The pastoral responses to changes in Northern European societies by the Churches in the area does vary. The Churchs of Sweden, Denmark and Iceland, for instance, do permit marriage between two people of the same sex. The other Porvoo signatory Churches do not.